Grenada: The People’s Revolution Government, US Intervention, and the Conflicting Media Narratives

On March 13, 1979, Maurice Bishop  and the People’s Revolutionary Government seized control of Grenada in a “bloodless” Revolution and ousted Prime Minister Eric Gairy.  Because as a socialist leader Bishop with established trade ties with the Cuban government, the US government rejected Bishop’s numerous attempts to establish a friendly relationship between the US and Grenada.  Ultimately, the United States invaded Grenada in October 1983 under Reagan’s orders.  The event proved extremely controversial because for the first forty-eight hours, Reagan’s administration barred the press from covering the invasion.  My paper examines several media artifacts: newspaper and magazine articles, speeches by Prime Minister Bishop and President Reagan, a comic book produced by the CIA.

I first learned about the US invasion of Grenada when I watched Damani Baker’s film, The House on Coco Road (2016) that evaluated his understanding of the events as a US-born youth who moved to the island with his mother and sister when Bishop came to power.  Because the film focused on the contentious relationship between Bishop and Reagan, I was a little surprised to learn that President Jimmy Carter played a role in undermining Grenada’s efforts to build an economy independent of neo-liberalism.  In my research I learned how Carter’s administration attempted to weaken Grenada’s economy heavily dependent on tourism by disseminating dubious travel warnings to punish the Grenadian government for creating a trade relationship with Communist Cuba.

As a nation embroiled in the Cold War politics against the Soviet Union and Cuba, Reagan employed anti-Communist rhetoric to play on public anxieties.  Invading Grenada contradicted the US supposed commitments to democracy, peace, and freedom of the press. I will argue this aggression not only violating Grenada’s sovereignty it revealed the larger issue of US paternalism and hegemony over the Americas.   I made this argument by analyzing Maurice Bishop’s vision for Grenada, Ronald Reagan’s private and public conversation about the invasion, the US public’s response to the invasion, and a comic book that condemns the United States invasion of Grenada.

The first section of this paper evaluated the Maurice Bishop and the way he used radio and interviews to present the ways this government attempted to build a friendly relationship with the United States.  The second section looked at how Reagan administration publicly and privately discussed the invasion and the way the public used news to condemn Reagan’s actions. The last section examined a comic book that the CIA produced and airdropped on the island called Grenada: Rescued from Rape and Slavery to manipulate Grenadians.

Paper link

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Me Too Backlash – Abstract

In this paper, I wanted to understand the way that the backlash to the Me Too movement evolved, with specific attention to platforms in prominent news sources and responses on Twitter. I gave a brief history of Twitter as an online space for social movements, usually inthe form of hashtags, where people shared their experiences to fight against rape culture and misogyny, drawing on the examples of #YouOkSis?, #WhatWereYouWearing, #SurvivorPrivilege, and #YesAllWomen as precursors to Me Too. I also gave a brief context of how Me Too evolved from Tarana Burke in 2006 to a popular tweet by Alyssa MIlano in 2017.

I created a timeline with major events in Me Too’s history as well as the major backlash pieces from mainstream news sources here. I gathered a sample of pieces criticizing Me Too from The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Guardian, and a few other sources. From these sources, four themes of criticism emerged that were consistent across all or many of the pieces. First, many columnists accused Me Too of demonizing all men by blaming everything on the patriarchy and failing to hold individual men accountable. Next, in a reverse of that point many of the articles accused Me Too of giving women a victim mentality and teaching them that they could do nothing but be victimized by men. Third, writers compared Me Too to a witch hunt or McCarthyism, taking issue with the lack of due process and presumption of innocence. Finally, many of these pieces argued that Me Too did not meaningfully distinguish between offences of varying harshness, for example between rape and sexual harassment.

I also looked at how the alt-right used Twitter to attempt to co-opt Me Too. Mike Cernovich was a leader here, frequently tweeting that Me Too was racist or proclaiming that it was over because accusers were beginning to come for men on the left. Then, he attempted to weaponize Me Too by bringing up old tweets of MSNBC commentator Sam Seder about Roman Polanski. Seder was briefly fired before being rehired.

Final paper: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1S309sqyO0cAXvyDEue5vBIuRIo6SW9VlOgm8aQQqHKM/edit?usp=sharing

Presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19CYiy-DbDr2rO-3IbbxKp6uLhxXSDeMWEYd74Soc7xM/edit?usp=sharing

Framing Climate Change: Agency, Overlapping Community Concerns, and the Potential for Cultural Loss in East Boston

 

 

The narratives by which environmental hazards are spoken about are important to examine, as they relate to city planning, as well as public policy. Beyond simplistic calls to action in regards to acknowledging the adverse effects of climate change, there are multiple frames from which the environmental hazards caused by climate change can be conceptualized, by communities, planning agencies, and in local media.  This is especially true when climate change is considered tandem with issues of poverty, gentrification, neglect and cultural loss. Through a content analysis of local Boston media, I outline how the city and local media do not adequately cover the intersection between community, culture and climate-related issues, especially as they relate to local vulnerabilities, including poverty and issues of affordability. Rather, these sources focus more extensively on aggregate measures of property loss, episodic weather-related events and macro-level observations on policy. There are some exceptions to these conclusions, which are discussed in the body of the paper.  In general, very little of the content I reviewed discussed climate change as it intersects with gentrification and cultural loss in the Boston area. Via observation and short interviews, I examine how a local group, the Harborkeepers, is reframing issues of coastal resiliency and climate preparedness from a community-based lens, through neighborhood programming that emphasizes community agency as well as online through social media platforms. The attitudes and aspirations of volunteers in this group relate to notions of community solidarity and empowerment.

 

In addition to this paper, I combine web mapping and journalistic writing on website platform in order to highlight the work being undertaken by the Harborkeepers, as well as some of the issues facing East Boston. This website will be utilized in the future in order to add additional stories and data analysis for other community-based environmental organizations, in order to highlight the importance of community agencies, as well as the intersecting issues communities face in the way of climate adaptation. While as it stands it is not, in my opinion,  a fully realized civic media piece, with the addition of more stories, it has the ability to serve as a platform for reframing some of these conversations.

Presentation link. 

Paper link.

Link to website materials. 

Kill All Normies – Review/Discussion

Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle is an exploration of the forces that produced online culture wars. It comes across as partly a study of social dynamics within these spheres, as well as a historical tracing of how ideologies on the far-right came to be, and to a lesser extent, the radical “identitarian” left. Nagle provides a series of characterizations, but offers little in the way of a prescription as to what to do with such reactivity. She also does not discuss how media infrastructures enable these groups in full detail. Rather, she portrays the emotive and psychological forces driving behavior by fringe groups on the /pol board of 4Chan, the Manosphere, and how the narratives driving these groups led to the rise of important figures in the alt-right.

 

Nagle argues that in the early 2010’s, there was a great deal of optimism surrounding a “leaderless” web, where anti-capitalist and anti-state movements from Occupy to the Arab Spring produced networks of hacktivists, who oftentimes aligned with the values of the mainstream left. People celebrated the work of Anonymous in providing both public spectacle as well as real investigatory work related to corporate and state abuse, as well as organizing power for progressive organizations. However, Nagle argues that this same “leaderless” conceptualization, though “fetishized” by progressives became a place where the right was successful.


Nagle goes on to characterize the transgressive roots of 4chan and its subforums, and spends a significant amount of time trying to characterize the ideological roots of communication on boards like /b and /pol. She depicts a sphere that has been described as the “cesspool of the internet” full of graphic and taboo imagery of violence, sexual imagery and the grotesque. She characterizes the cruelty and humor associated with 4chan in the way of Batkhin’s carnival laughter, where the humor espoused in these internet spaces is one that laughs at the structures constituting normal life, with some element of cruelty embedded in it. Nagle sketches a portrait of the disaffected and NEET  (Not in Education, Employment or Training) men that populate these online spaces, as arbitrary, socially inept, unwilling or unable to assimilate into “normal society.” She draws on the sensibilities of the Surrealists, writers like Marquis de Sade, and the nihilism portrayed in movies like Fight Club and American Psycho. She discusses how a disregard for the moral authority of society, and consequently, oftentimes the feelings and humanity of women and minorities.  Though the memes, graphic productions and posts made of ironic, self-referential humor are by their nature buried in layers of meaning and non-meaning, Nagle describes how they manifest IRL.  Violence, school shootings, suicide, assault and more are encouraged on these forums, and has led to these outcomes in the real world.

 

We then see how such an ideology, hinged on insecurity, transgressiveness and an extreme hostility towards moral authority ends up being weaponized. Nagle uses Gamergate to discuss how the  transgressive, very online men of 4chan and other spaces ended up using their organizing ability to dox and harass women, while also propelling certain figureheads in the alt-right to a kind of celebrity.

Per Nagle, these sentiments foment into a new culture war, similar to the one of the 1990’s, where conservatives reacted to the mid-century gains of women and minorities. While figureheads like Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, Milo Yiannopoulos and even the anonymous posters on r/redpill or /pol have described their opinions on the same adversarial terms, this culture war is different. It does not seek to preserve institutions like the church, conservative moral authority, or the notion of America that once existed.  Rather, the fringe or alt-right seeks to disrupt moral orders they find constraining at any cost, even if condemned as crass or reprehensible. Nagle is careful to present the various movements and sub-movements within a loosely defined collective of alt-right as factional and heterogeneous; posters on Daily Stormer are not equivalent to casual readers of Breitbart or teenagers ironically posting sexist or racist memes on /b. She instead seeks to characterize the venomous and playful kind of trangressitivity that tends to unite all of these fragmented groups, which justify cruelty and radical belief in the service of rejecting mainstream moral authorities.

 

Nagle also describes the rhetoric of what she and other critics like Mark Fisher brand as the “identitarian left” which in Nagle’s view, espouses an ideology of performativity based on the accumulation of virtue as currency. Specifically, she describes an online sphere where the call-out of call-out culture was worth some degree of social capital in these spaces, perhaps even more so than the actual substance of the objection. She describes how such a sphere alienated older leftists, produced a culture of carefully policed language, and eventually percolated into campus spaces. This culture is easily exploited, per Nagle, by the theaterics of alt-right celebrities like Milo Yiannopoulos, Lauren Southern and more. Nagle spends less time covering the psychologies and history of this specific brand of progressivism; rather, she instead chooses to discuss this sphere of discourse as a foil or motivating force for alt-right groups.

 

As much as I found this book to be interesting, I’m not sure if there are any key takeaways about how to solve the problem, either in the psychology of young people who become reactionaries, or in preventing reactionary discourse from ending up in mainstream discourse. The book provides a good field guide, especially in regards to the right, but is not necessarily process-oriented in its explanations. It also provides little in the way of class critique as it relates to the rise of reactionary, cultural hostility between different groups of people, and also spends much less time discussing race and race relations in the U.S. and Europe as it does gender.  

4/9 Discussion Recap

This week, we discussed media histories in class, applying the ideas and methods we have discussed about modern technology to older forms of communication technology. We discussed the James Carey piece on the telegraph, which was an interesting look at how something that we now likely regard as old technology was viewed around its early days.

 

Along with Carey, we discussed how the telegraph affected affected life for regular people, such as in creating a common time and collapsing many local markets together into one market. Professor Costanza Chock mentioned an interesting observation from the piece, that this was one of the first times that communication could be separated from transportation. I was struck by this point because in my lifetime, I have not really had to consider them as very connected. The idea that a message could only be received in the time it would take for a person to physically travel somewhere, or for the message to be transported by horse or carrier pigeon. Separating these concepts created new opportunities and possibilities that could not have happened earlier, but they also created problems or change that were not necessarily positive.

 

We discussed the roots of modern news bulletins in the style of writing that the telegraph incentivized: short, to the point, seemingly unbiased, and with language that could be understood by many consumers in many different markets. We also talked about what this might mean for local news, which could be less appealing to cover because fewer consumers are interested in news about a particular small community. We thought about the recent stories about Sinclair, which owns many local news stations throughout the country through this lens, considering if what Sinclair is doing is really new.

 

We also discussed Txtmob as a technology that predates Twitter and has direct links to Twitter, yet is missing from Twitter’s official history. Twitter has roots in activist work like the work Txtmob was used to facilitate, and today many activists use Twitter to coordinate their actions or communicate. The company uses this to its advantage sometimes for good PR to demonstrate good that it does as a company. However, in class someone raised the question of if Twitter had honored those activist roots by supporting social actions or doing anything besides promoting their work on the platform.

Discussion Questions from 4/2/18 Class by John Clarke and Saritha Ramakrishna

1.) What does Carver mean by “Ideology?” How does ideology relate to reality and lived experience? What do the critiques of ideology imply about self-governance? See Napoleon’s critique of Enlightenment figures.

Exercise: Craft your definition of “ideology”. Compare and contrast with Napoleon, Marx, Engels’ view.

Short film on Ideology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BM8ph5F2Tk

 

2.) In “Manufacturing Consent” Chomsky and Herman propose that there are five filters that produce the propaganda model of modern media: (I) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and “experts” funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) “flak” as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) “anticommunism” as a national religion and control mechanism.

 

Exercise: In pairs, discuss each of these five filters. Which of these are relevant today? In what way has the discussion changed for each of these filters? Come up with an example or recent connection to each filter.

 

3.) In the concluding paragraph of “Manufacturing Consent,” the authors describe local media sources, as well as publicly owned media sources as means of dissent and as alternatives to corporately owned media. What are some other alternatives that are more democratic, crowdsourced, etc. that exist today and what are the perils of these alternatives? This is the lead-in to the discussion of the Marwick and Lewis piece. Can we consider social media/participatory platforms as reasonable alternatives? Why or why not?

 

4.) What are some key ways, as described in Marwick and Lewis, that the alt-right and other individuals interested in spreading disinformation, engaging in media manipulation, are able to game traditional media? What are traditional media’s vulnerabilities as described by the authors? What advents of the 2018 media landscape (influencer culture, social media platforms, attention economy) empower these fringe-right figures?

 

Exercise: Draw a diagram taking one of the examples presented in the Marwick and Lewis reading where a fringe far-right belief was somehow noticed and amplified by mainstream media sources.

 

5.) In “What Motivates Media Manipulators” section of Marwick and Lewis, they describe a “culture war” between alt-right and left-wing groups and that the right thinks they are losing this war. Do you think there is such a war taking place and, if so, what does this war look like for you (i.e. have you experienced this war?).

 

6.) Mazon and Costanza-Chock provide a discussion on how mainstream media coverage at the national level leads to agenda setting at the local level, as well as social media discussion by means of news diffusion. However, Marwick and Lewis point out that social media and popular discourse online influence mainstream coverage. Are there examples of this positive feedback loop, where news affects social media affects news? How this the relationship between popular discourse and mainstream changed in today’s era, compared to when Chomsky was writing?

 

7.) Mason and Costanza-Chock illustrate news agenda competition by example: the Arab spring revolutions in Egypt, Syria, and Libya. They found that newspapers tended to focus on one revolution at a time, displaying them in one to two-week cycles. How can this phenomenon affect how media is interpreted by the public and, further, how action is taken by supporters of the cause? Would another process (e.g. equally reported at all times) be better for capturing the public’s attention?

Black History Month Exhibition

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Source: https://www.blackhistory.mit.edu/archive/black-history-month-2018

The installation curated and executed by the Black Student Union is a provocative attempt to pay reverence to the accomplishments of black people and the recognition of their black bodies. Billowing over the main promenade of the infinite corridor, assemblage of text, imagery, space and engagement presents metaphoric moments that parallel the importance of Black accomplishments to mainstream American success.

Text

  • Black and white contrast projects from the horizontal columns. Presents that the height of American success could be success without the horizontal labor of Black folks. Even the black paper wrapped around the base of the column presents voices about or from black bodies as the soil from which American purity or idealism is achieved.

Imagery

  • The size of the portrait and lack of her name could be mistaken for lack of direct recognition of the black woman. But I believe the intentional omission of her name forces curiosity about who she is, why she is significant preempts viewers to investigate or wonder. It allows the gravity of Black success to be heavier than the exceptionalism of the individual.
  • Likewise, the Black Power fist held ironically by two track Olympians, hovering immediately over the doorway to the infinite corridor, makes passersby slightly tilt their heads upward to recognize a symbol of black strength. There is no subtlety. No compromise. No political correctness or code switching. Its presence is felt and forces you grapple with it as you continue your journey to MIT.

Space & Engagement

  • The sheer grandness of the installation in a neoclassical main a lobby area of the world’s highest ranked university in the world something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
  • Faintly engraved over the Black History Month signage in a plinth are the words “established for advancement” transposing with its own materiality as if it is deciding where it belongs: to the neoclassical building that was built on the labor of black bodies directly and indirectly or the signage below looking to recognize and reclaim the merits to Blackness.
  • The space for written thoughts and engagement allows there to be a dialogue about blackness which is unusual. Conversations about black people are typically relegated to insular conversations about the complexity of Blackness that doesn’t reach white ears. Or the opposite where white interpretation of Black is felt through stereotypes and institutionalized castigation.

The one question that I am left with is this: does this installation to enough to center the continuum of black voices who should be celebrated?